Saturday, June 17, 2006

Update from the Race Wire

Clean start for Bermuda Race Centennial record-breaking fleet
by Laurie Fullerton

Newport, R.I. -- A record-breaking fleet of 264 yachts set off for Bermuda today with one less boat after "Pindar Artemas" skippered by Nicholas Black suffered damage after hitting a rock just prior to their starting gun. With one less member of the historic fleet, 16 divisions quickly set the pace for the duration of this 635-mile centennial race.

The Reichel Pugh 75 "Titan 12" owned by Tom Hill was leading Divison 12 in a close contest with "Blue Yankee" and the Swan 60 "Moneypenny." In Division 4, Bernie Coyne led the fleet aboard his J42 "Amigo" with J42 "Dolphin" owner Henry Morgan close behind. The cruiser division set an aggressive pace with up to 26 boats powering up the coast towards open water with the Concordia 39 "Dame of Sark" owned by Stephen P. Donovan holding a lead in Division 14. In Division 15, the SL73 "Donnybrook" owned by James Muldoon was out in front.

In the Demonstration Division, the massive super maxi "Maximus" accelerated off the starting line followed by Open 50 skipper Joe Harris aboard "Gryphon Solo."

In the Class 3 division, the Swan 44 "Moondance" owned by Cliff Crowley led the fleet with Swan 46 "Galadriel," a close second. In a spectacular start in Class 7, the Sparkman and Stephens restored classic "BlackWatch" owned by Joseph T. Dockery led the fleet with the US Naval Academy Custom 60 "American Promise" owned by Gregory T. Nannig, MIDN close behind.

While the afternoon breeze sent the boats off with good boat speed, a light air race is predicted overall and will give navigators a true test as boats move through the tricky currents of the Gulf Stream.

"This is one of the classic events and it has been on our list to do," said British solo sailor Dee Caffari, 33, of "Pindar Alphagraphics" who just completed a record solo circumnavigation of the globe. "We have a lot of knowledge on board our boat but we also have sailors who are developing in the sport. This race offers them that first hand knowledge and it is also a great test for me."

While some of the top boats decided to unload sail inventory and extra crew prior to the race, smaller, heavier boats were working out their overall strategy.

"This race is going to be a guess. The ones who guess correctly will be among the winners," said veteran tactician and Bermudian Jordy Walker who is racing aboard the BER 400 "Alice Kay." "The wind will be behind us as we get into the Gulf Stream and it could clock around but it depends where we are when we get to the other side of it. It is definitely going to involve guesswork."

For team members of the J133 "Siren Song" who had a strong start in Division 7 on Friday, the captain and crew are preparing for a long race.

"We have already made calls and let people know it may be a long haul," said owner Thomas J. Carroll of New York. "The idea of spending days and days with eight men, no beer or women will be a challenge. However, we are stalking up on water, sunblock and we are carrying a defibrillator and we will take it as it comes."

For veteran sailor Sy Shemitz of Connecticut who owns "Light Fantastic" this will be his 12th Newport to Bermuda Race and he is prepared for "five days in a ‘washing machine’ but we will still manage to cook a hot breakfast," he said. "What we find exciting is that while we have 264 boats at the start once you get out there you don’t see any other boats until you begin to approach Bermuda. That is when the race really gets interesting."

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